November 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 October 2008
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Expected Council Action
The quarterly report on UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) is due by 7 November. Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, is likely to brief the Council in a public session in mid November. A US briefing on the Multinational Force in Iraq (MNF-I) is also expected. A debate is likely.

Council members will be watching with interest whether an extension of the MNF-I mandate might be necessary, should there be a delay in the status-of-forces agreement currently being negotiated between the US and Iraq. In that event a new resolution would be required before the mandate expires on 31 December. Expert level discussions on immunity provisions relating to the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), which also expire on 31 December, are also expected.

The UNAMI mandate expires on 7 August 2009.

Key Recent Developments
Violence in Iraq has fallen again in recent months. However, despite improved security and Iraq’s growing economy there are still huge problems in the lives of ordinary Iraqi citizens arising from the conflict.

On 7 October the Iraqi Presidency Council ratified a long-delayed provincial election law paving the way for elections in 14 out of 18 Iraqi governorates by 31 January. Parliament earlier approved the law after Kirkuk was excluded from its application. A parliamentary committee will review the status of Kirkuk by 31 March 2009. The Kurdish parliament is expected to organise elections in its three provinces in 2009. The UN is working with legislators to amend the new law to include provisions for minorities after parliament earlier eliminated an article providing 13 provincial council seats for Iraq’s Christians and other minorities.

Iraqi legislators are reviewing a revised draft security agreement governing the conduct of American forces in Iraq after their UN mandate expires on 31 December. Other coalition partners intending to remain in Iraq after the UN mandate expires will also be required to negotiate bilateral agreements with Iraq, and are likely to use the current agreement under review as a model.

Reports say the draft calls for US troops to leave Iraqi cities and villages by 30 July 2009 and withdraw entirely from Iraq by 2011 (although US forces could be permitted to stay under a mutual agreement). US military personnel and defence contractors would receive immunity from Iraqi law except for cases of premeditated murder committed while off-duty and outside US bases. US military operations would be conducted under the supervision of a joint coordination committee while US troops could detain Iraqis only under an Iraqi order. The draft is subject to approval by three political bodies: the Political Council for National Security (senior government officials and leaders of major political groups), cabinet and parliament. Following a 19 October meeting of the Political Council, the main Kurdish parties were the only bloc to endorse the agreement while the Iraqi cabinet, on 21 October, unanimously agreed the draft needed amending. On 29 October Washington received proposals for amendments to the agreement from the Iraqi cabinet. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates had earlier indicated that the US was reluctant to engage further in the drafting process.

On 1 October the MNF-I began transferring responsibility for approximately 100,000 members of the Awakening movement to the Iraqi government. The former, mainly Sunni, insurgents were funded by the US after they became allies in the coalition against Al-Qaida. The US credits the movement with significantly contributing to the dramatic drop in violence in the past year. Around 20 percent will join the Iraqi armed forces while the remainder will be paid until they find civilian jobs.

On 1 September authority for security in Anbar province, the former cradle of the Sunni insurgency, was transferred to Iraqi security forces. Authority for security in Babil and Wasit provinces was also transferred to Iraqi security forces on 23 and 29 October respectively. Iraq now bears the primary security responsibility in 13 of its 18 provinces.

Turkey’s parliament extended its army’s mandate to carry out cross-border raids against Kurdistan Workers’ Party separatists in northern Iraq for another year after the rebels killed 17 Turkish soldiers at a border outpost on 3 October.

Turkey bombed rebel bases in northern Iraq in what was the deadliest battle between the parties in eight months.

On 13 August, the UN and Iraqi government signed a cooperation agreement, defining how the UN will support Iraq’s reconstruction, development and humanitarian needs over the next three years. The UN Assistance Strategy for Iraq 2008-2010 contains development and humanitarian solutions for better essential social services, and focuses on boosting Iraq’s private sector to create more jobs, and more accountable governance systems. Key to the strategy is co-financing of the projects between the UN and the Iraqi government.

On resolving the residual issues from the Iraq oil-for-food programme, it appears the P5 is discussing a new letter with the Secretariat which provides Iraq 45 days to credibly contest the remaining 132 letters of credit with claims of delivery only, at which point payment to the supplier will proceed. Should Iraq successfully contest the claim, the Council undertakes to consider other options. (For more details on the oil-for-food issue please see our October Forecast.)

Formal Council action is unlikely in November.

Key Issues
Several issues may be touched on by delegates including:

  • Governorate Elections: these are expected by 31 January 2009. The death on 9 October of a Sadrist member of parliament, Saleh al-Ugaili, raised concerns about the potential for violence ahead of the elections. Another concern is the omission in the electoral law of provisions for minorities. Up to half of Christians in the Mosul area (9,300 people) have reportedly been displaced in early October owing to threats, intimidation and attacks.
  • Constitutional Review Process: in July, after almost two years, the Constitutional Review Committee provided parliament with its draft final report, which included outstanding unresolved issues for further deliberation. Significant matters include the distribution of power between Baghdad and the regions, and the management and revenue distribution of oil fields. It is understood negotiations on unresolved issues have stalled.
  • Humanitarian Situation: approximately 2.4 million refugees remain in the region with a further 2.7 million internally displaced in Iraq. In May the government undertook to create conditions to facilitate the return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). UN High Commission for Refugees reports conditions remain unsuitable.
  • Internally Disputed Territories and the Status of Kirkuk: UNAMI is preparing its second set of analysis on disputed internal boundaries of districts in the northern Iraq provinces of Diyala and Ninewa in addition to Kirkuk. A key question is what bearing decisions taken on this issue will have on governorate elections.
  • Awakening Councils: if the transfer of command from MNF-I to the government is poorly managed, this may erode recent security gains.

In the absence of an agreement between the US and Iraq, UNAMI’s security beyond the expiry of the MNF-I mandate in December remains an issue for the Council. UNAMI relies upon MNF-I for elements of its security.

Another issue is whether to continue immunity provisions in the DFI. Resolution 1483 of 22 May 2003 created the DFI as the principal repository of revenue from the sale of Iraqi oil and gas and provided immunity for oil and gas and sales’ revenue from legal proceedings. Specifically, it was intended to ensure that the proceeds from the sale of crude oil and natural gas were protected from claims made by creditors or others with legal claims against the former regime and benefited the Iraqi people through funding humanitarian assistance, reconstruction and disarmament activities and civilian administration costs. DFI’s independent oversight body, the International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB) has consistently raised concerns regarding irregularities in fund administration. A successor to the IAMB, the Committee of Financial Experts, has been created by the Iraqi government in anticipation of IAMB’s mandate expiring, and is actively working with it. Although the provisions for the DFI and the mandate for the IAMB were expected to expire upon the formation of a representative government of Iraq, renewal of the arrangements has continued to occur in conjunction with the MNF-I mandate each December.

On the oil-for-food programme, a key issue for the Council is how to ensure that processes that are applied to resolve outstanding letters of credit safeguard the UN from future legal action. A further issue, given that the current draft letter seems unlikely to address Costa Rica and the Secretariat’s concerns, is whether the P5 will continue to look for solutions by consensus or seek to put the matter to a vote. A question arises whether the US will also accept some responsibility for the inability to document deliveries with the letters of credit. It seems that all of the remaining claims are for goods supplied to the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority and the Government of Iraq after the fall of the Saddam regime.

Council Dynamics and Wider Dynamics
During his General Assembly address on 24 September, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said the situation in his country was no longer a threat to international peace and security and called on the international community to end or settle all measures taken by the Security Council through its resolutions on Iraq based on Chapter VII. It seems unlikely that all Council members would endorse that proposition but most would welcome his statement that Iraq was eager to cooperate with the UN and he called upon the UN to expand its presence in Iraq. It seems likely that the Council would support an extension of MNF-I beyond 31 December, if necessary, and if requested by Iraq.

In the August debate on the UNAMI mandate renewal, many delegations expressed concern at the human rights situation. Indonesia underlined the importance of protection of civilians. France raised concerns on the rights of detainees held in Iraq. Libya also said the millions of IDPs and refugees in neighbouring countries merited special attention by the Council.

The Iraqi government has serious concerns that lifting immunity provisions from the DFI would lead to a flood of claims and is keen for them to continue after 31 December (there have been media reports that $20 billion in outstanding court judgements against Iraq exist in the US). The P5 seem to be waiting for options from the government for a long term solution. Council members, including South Africa, Costa Rica, Panama, China and Russia, have previously raised concerns regarding irregularities in the administration of the fund.

On resolving residual oil-for-food issues, Costa Rica appears to still hold concerns about exposing the UN to claims. The P5 seem frustrated and still hope for a political decision to take the matter forward.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1830 (7 August 2008) renewed UNAMI for a further year.
  • S/RES/1790 (18 December 2007) renewed the mandate of the MNF-I for one year, with a review by 15 June.
  • S/RES/1770 (10 August 2007) expanded UNAMI’s mandate.

Latest UNAMI Report

Last Security Council Briefing and Debate on Iraq

Latest Letter

  • S/2008/523 (4 August 2008) was a letter from Iraq requesting the mandate of UNAMI be extended for 12 months.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Staffan de Mistura (Sweden)

Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs

Michael von der Schulenburg (Germany)

Deputy Special Representative for Humanitarian, Reconstruction and Development Affairs

David Shearer (New Zealand)

Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the International Compact with Iraq

Ibrahim Gambari (Nigeria)


  • Strength as of October 2008: 147,800
  • Composition as of July 2008: US, UK, Georgia, Australia, Romania, El Salvador, Bulgaria, Albania, Czech Republic, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Ukraine, Macedonia, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Korea, Moldova, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Estonia, Tonga and Kazakhstan.


  • Composition as of 30 September 2008: 222 troops (Fiji), seven military observers, up to 446 international civilian staff and 592 local civilian staff.
  • Middle Ring Security (under MNF-I command): about 200 Georgian soldiers in Baghdad and about sixty South Korean troops in Erbil.

Additional Useful Source

  • Oil for Soil: Toward a Grand Bargain on Iraq and the Kurds, International Crisis Group, Middle East Report no. 80, 28 October 2008

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